Even before I got into writing the Night Buddies books I was a fan of Roald Dahl—author of books including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, and James and the Giant Peach. He is known as one of the 20th century’s best children’s authors, and I can certainly say that as a reader his books never failed to captivate my imagination and pull me inside the stories; he had me hooked from his first word to his last. But when I took on the task of writing my own book series, I started looking to Roald Dahl not only as my favorite author, but also as one of my biggest writing inspirations.
Dahl began his writing career by writing down the things that he knew. His first published story was about his experience as a fighter pilot in World War II, and his first children’s book, The Gremlins, was about “mischievous little creatures that were part of RAF folklore.” This is where I learned my first lesson in storytelling: writing what you know, even in books that take place in worlds far from reality, will always get you the best results. In Night Buddies, even though the books are entirely fictional, I had to use emotions, situations, and types of relationships that I knew in my life in order to make them come alive on the page.
Books like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory reach children because they are unique, they are told from the voices of children who differ from the norm, and they use more imagination than most people could ever dream of having. Dahl didn’t feel the need to make everything in his books “pretty,” the way some children’s authors do, and is in fact known for his dark humor and sometimes grotesque scenarios. This kind of writing inspired me to write the Night Buddies books in the most real, authentic way I knew. The creativity he used in his stories inspired me to keep thinking further outside the box in order to create books I can now say I am proud to have written and feel confident that children will love.
“I have a passion for teaching kids to become readers, to become comfortable with a book, not daunted. Books shouldn’t be daunting, they should be funny, exciting and wonderful.”
This quote by Dahl stuck with me throughout my writing experience, and should inspire any of you attempting to write your own children’s books. In the process of writing a book, sometimes it is easy to get caught up in using impressive language or trying to come up with sweeping universal themes, but remembering that what children need is a book that they are going to have fun reading makes the entire writing process much less intimidating, and always leads to a better book being written.
If you haven’t read one of his books, I suggest you drop everything and go pick one up now. You’ll be a happy reader—and a better writer—for it.
When I sat down to write the first book in the Night Buddies series, I didn’t quite know exactly what I was getting into. Writing a book is hard work, and writing for children is an especially difficult task that requires an immense amount of time, dedication, and above all, imagination. The easy part is coming up with a vague idea for what you think will be an exciting story . . . the hard part is turning that idea into a full and complete work of fiction that will keep kids up past their bedtimes just to figure out what happens next. So for any of you out there attempting to write your own children’s book for the first time, these are the best tips I can give you to help make the process as smooth as possible.
Read what’s already out there. Browse the New York Times bestsellers lists, scroll through Goodreads to find out which children’s books have the highest ratings, walk through the aisles of your local bookstore to see which books have the biggest displays, and then READ them. The more you know about children’s literature, the more prepared you will be to write your own book.
Spend a good amount of time imagining before you start writing. I would go as far to say that children’s literature is the genre with the most amount of imagination involved, and all of the most popular stories are the most creative ones as well. The more time you spend imagining the world your book is set in, imagining the characters you’ll be writing about, and imagining all the trouble you can stir up in a couple hundred pages or so, the more fun your book will be to read.
Spend time with children. If you don’t know anything about kids, how are you going to know what they would enjoy reading? You need to spend time with kids to remember what it is like to think like them, play like them, and imagine like them. Then, you take that knowledge and incorporate it into your book, making it something kids can easily relate to!
Take it seriously. Writing a book, especially a book for children, should be fun. But the only way you are going to be able to see the book through from start to finish is by taking your writing seriously. Have a set time each day to write, have a set goal you have to achieve each day before you go to bed, and think about your story in every free moment you have. If you aren’t so obsessed with your story that it’s constantly on your brain, chances are readers won’t become obsessed with it either.
When I was first coming up with the Night Buddies stories, I was a single parent trying to figure out the balance between spending ample time with my son John while still working enough hours to be able to provide for us. The actual writing of the books didn’t come until later, when John was grown and able to take care of himself, but I know that many of you out there with that novel idea formed and ready to go in your heads aren’t as keen to wait for your child to be on their own before setting pen to paper.
So what if you didn’t have to?
Finding a balance between writing a book and being the best parent you can be is no easy task, but I believe it can be done. Here are my top five tips for how to find the best balance between the two!
1. You are one person, and especially as a parent, you only have so many things you can devote your time to. Your priorities should revolve around your children, your job (if writing isn’t your full-time profession), and your writing if you are going to get your book written. Other things should fill in the space between, but shouldn’t make you lose focus of your priorities. You don’t want to stretch yourself too thin in an effort to do it all!
2. Keep a consistent schedule. If you wake up an hour earlier than your child to get writing done, do it every day. If your child has a bedtime of 7 pm, make sure you stick with it. Routine is good for you, and for your child. When your time is appropriately scheduled, you will be able to see the small gaps of time you might not have known you had in order to get some writing in. Scheduling your time will also allow you to have a stopping point that you shouldn’t try to work past. If you schedule yourself two hours of writing in the evening, from 7pm to 9pm let’s say, but you don’t go to bed until 11pm, don’t try to work your way through until the end. Your schedule needs room for relaxing too!
3. Teach your kids about your work. When you explain to them what you are doing and how important it is that you do it, they’ll be more respectful of your writing time than they would be if you just locked yourself away with no explanation. Children are curious people! If you’re writing a children’s novel, read chapters to them as you go along. If you’re writing more adult content, simply tell them that you’re writing a book and that it’s very important to you. This will teach them to value passion and work, and is an important lesson for them to learn, even at a young age.
4. Sometimes it’s okay to do things the easy way. If you signed up to do a bake sale with your children’s school, you don’t need to bake dozens of cookies from scratch if you don’t have the time for it—this was what pre-made dough was made for. It’s easy to fall into the trap of always trying to be the “superhero parent,” but sometimes it’s okay, even necessary, to grab a pizza for dinner, tell your kids that they need to entertain themselves for an hour, or ask someone else to host after-school playdates. Being the best parent you can be is important, but being the best parent is an unrealistic goal to achieve, especially when you have writing to get done!
Courtesy of Pixabay
5. Don’t be afraid to enlist help if you need it. Author Sarah Dessen hires babysitters for the afternoons to watch her daughter, even though she’s doing her writing from home. If you can afford childcare, or your family members offer to watch your child for an afternoon, it’s not admitting defeat to accept the help! Everyone needs help now and then, and if your writing is important to you, accepting help in order for your writing to not suffer is something you should never feel bad about.
Just remember, being a parent is not an excuse to not achieve your goal of being an author. Whether you have time to write for four hours a day, or only twenty minutes every morning, you’ll be able to get that book written as long as you stick with it!
The big moment is here. We are finally announcing the Night Buddies Go Sky High official release date! Drum roll please . . .
The third installment of the Night Buddies series is going to be available for you all to read on March 16!
We over here at the Night Buddies Headquarters could not be more excited to share this next adventure with you, and we can’t wait for you to find out all that John and Crosley have been up to! To get you excited about this next book, we’re sharing with you some of the early reviews it has received so far.
“Lively and wildly imaginative. A wacky adventure. Crosley, the likable crocodile and his buddy John go on a zany nighttime romp through the stratosphere.” Randi Mrvos, Editor of Kid’s Imagination Train
“The Stratosphere’s the limit in this third Night Buddies adventure, as John Degraffenreidt and Crosley the red crocodile must go up up up to check out a mysterious roving dot in the sky that just might have it in for them. Their racing blimp may defy the laws of physics but it obeys the prime rule of storytelling: unstoppable action equals lots of fun. Sands Hetherington again combines expressive language, whimsical inventions, abundant delicious (and disgusting) food, loyal pals and wicked foes, in Night Buddies Go Sky High.” Lynne Barrett, author of Magpies and co-editor of Birth: A Literary Companion
“Overall, Night Buddies Go Sky High is a cute book for kids with fun illustrations!” Billy B., blogger for Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer
“Where Night Buddies Go Sky High excels is in the pacing of the story–lots of lingering time to laugh, but equal momentum time to make the adventure exciting for children. Hetherington is so adept at writing for children that his books become instant classics–and that means that after lights out, parents will tiptoe in and grab some of this confection for themselves! Highly recommended.” Grady Harp, Reviewer for Literary Aficionado and Amazon Hall of Fame Reviewer
“This science fiction book will probably help young readers’ minds drift away for awhile into a fantasy of what can happen in a blimp in the sky […] My review = 5 out of 5 stars.” Jill H., blogger for Book Review Travels
So remember, on March 16, be sure to pick up a copy of Night Buddies Go Sky High! You will be able to find it as a print book at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and at all fine bookstores near you. It will also be conveniently available as an ebook on Amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, iBookstore, and elsewhere!
1. Find a partner to adventure with. If you asked either John or Crosley to go on a Program alone, they’d call you nuts. It’s important to have someone to go on your adventures with, not to mention loads more fun! Team up with your brother or sister, your best friend, or you can even create someone in your imagination to adventure with. As long as you have someone to share your experience with, your adventure will be all the more worthwhile.
2. Build your adventure craft. The Night Buddies wouldn’t get very far on their Programs without their Far-Out Flying Machine, and likewise, you’ll need to find something to go on your adventures in! Look around your house for an old cardboard box, some tape, scissors (with your mom or dad’s approval) and markers, glitter, or stickers to decorate it with. Make your adventure craft look however you want it to look . . . just make sure it’s uniquely yours!
3. Decide on a goal. Each Night Buddies Program has a specific goal in mind, and it usually has to do with stopping the evil Iguana Gang. Decide what you want to accomplish on your adventure—whether it’s stopping evil, discovering something new to you, or solving a problem that has been bothering you—and then go after it. Every good adventure has an end goal in mind, but make sure you remember to have fun along the way!
4. Always, always use your imagination. It is possible for you to do anything, go anywhere, and meet anyone, as long as you are open to using your imagination. If you allow yourself to see your living room turn into outer-space, your adventure craft flying in the sky, and yourself as the hero bringing all evil to justice, you can go on an adventure every day. Whenever you read about all that John and Crosley do on their Programs, remember that you can be with them every step of the way, as long as you are using your imagination just right.
How was it growing up with Crosley as a brother?
Brother Crosley and I were always different. I’m not referring to our colors. His redness happened later as a side effect of the Black Bottom pills. Our personalities are what really differentiate us. Crosley is zany and free-wheeling and I’m not, and I’m a dignified genius and Crosley definitely is not. But we did manage to value each other’s strengths and to work together. (Wuk!) Night Buddies Amalgamated would never have come into being without this. On the other hand, I do think Crosley can be a bit jealous that I’m the brains of the operation.
What whatchamacallit are you most proud of inventing?
I think the time-spreader dingus is one of the most useful whatchamacallits I’ve made (it’s the one that slows down time so that John doesn’t lose any sleep for being out so long on Programs). It’s a fact that whenever you manipulate time, you never know (Hik!) how things are going to go, so I’m pleased that the device has worked well so far.
Do you ever worry about the Night Buddies Headquarters being broken into?
Constantly. It’s a major concern. Just think what would happen if the wrong crowd got into my whatchamacallits! This is why I’m always moving Headquarters: to make it more difficult to find. It’s at the zoo now, but just two days ago, it was in the back of Nardiello’s Pizza Palace. The I-D Gimcracks add another layer of security.
Who taught you how to juggle so well?
It’s an innate talent. I do it at the zoo so no one will suspect who I really am.
Last, but not least, what do you love most about your job with the Night Buddies?
I love that it’s fast-paced, and that you never know what each Program is going to be dealing with. Who could have guessed (Ook!) that a gang of Crosley impersonators would figure in the last Program? It keeps me on my toes, and I get to use my imagination making whatchamacallits. It’s a dream job, we’re working for the greater good, and best of all, I get to do it with Brother Crosley and (Hup!) our other splendid operatives.
We over here at the Night Buddies Headquarters are absolutely crazy about the holiday season! Holiday treats, time with family, and of course, gift exchanges are some of the things we love the most. So we wanted to sit down with the stars of the series and ask what item is on the top of their Christmas wish lists this year. Here’s what they said:
John: It was hard for me t’ figure out just what t’ ask for this year. Ever since Crolsey and the Night Buddies became part of my life there’s not much that would make me happier! But I guess the one thing would be if I could bring my dad along on one of our Programs. I think he’d be really into it!
Crosley: Ya know what I want this year? I want another handy whatchamacallit for my tool belt. (Yerk!) Got t’ be prepared for all the new Programs we have ahead of us!
Big Foot Mae: I don’t want anything fancy, but I do think I could use a new pair of coveralls to wear at the factory. (It’s hard to find good ones my size.) But I hope they still got pictures of pineapples on ‘em!
Crenwinkle: All I ever want is some more steamed root beer. I go through ‘em kind of quick!
Fast Fanny Farnsworth: As much as I love working at the All-Night Emporium and helping John and Crosley with their Programs, I think all I want for Christmas this year is a day off. Crosley sure can drive me nuts, and sometimes I think I need a vacation!
Doesn’t seem like they’re asking for too much this year! Whatever is on your Christmas list, we hope you have a very happy holiday and remember to enjoy the time you have with your loved ones. And if you’re still looking to find the perfect gift for someone on your list, we’d recommend giving them a Night Buddies book!
For those of you who have been following this blog regularly, you know that we over here at the Night Buddies Headquarters are gearing up for the release of Night Buddies Go Sky High, the third book in the Night Buddies series! If you haven’t seen the cover yet, here it is again.
Well, we have some pretty big news to share with you. Grady Harp, the prominent Amazon Hall of Fame reviewer, posted an amazing review for Night Buddies Go Sky High! For those of you unfamiliar with Harp, he is a 66-year-old gallerist, retired surgeon, and poet who has reviewed over 3,500 books, CDs, and movies for Amazon, as well as a reviewer for Literary Aficionado. In turn, he has attained a kind of celebrity, a number 7 ranking, a prominent profile on Amazon, and a pretty hefty following.
Some snippets of the review include:
“Hetherington’s manner of dialogue writing is unique and at all times a delight.”
“Where Night Buddies Go Sky High excels is in the pacing of the story – lots of lingering time to laugh, but equal momentum time to make the adventure exciting for children.”
“Hetherington is so adept at writing for children that his books become instant classics – and that means that after lights out, parents will tiptoe in and grab some of this confection for themselves! Highly recommended.”
We couldn’t be happier with the review, and we hope you all go out and give it a read! Thanks so much for continuing on the Night Buddies journey—we will continue releasing more information about the release in the coming weeks!
Crosley picked out John to be his Night Buddy, for starters. There must have been a lot of reasons, but the only one Crosley mentions is middle names. Crosley doesn’t have one, and neither does John, so they have this in common. Crosley thinks it makes you a little sharper, too. And hey, we know that John is really sharp, and Crosley is definitely no slouch, so maybe there’s something in it.
The two characters couldn’t help but hit it off with each other. John doesn’t want to go to bed, so Crosley rescues him and takes him out on adventures. Crosley for his part gets a genial and very capable partner for his “Programs.” Sharing these adventures, the good and the bad parts, bonds the two all the more.
John and Crosley are very different, obviously, and before I go any further, I have to confess something. After I finished The Pineapple Cheesecake Scare, I realized I had used a device made famous by Cervantes and Mark Twain. (When you steal, steal from the best.) I don’t know whether Mark Twain had Sancho Panza and the Don in mind when he wrote Tom Sawyer (I promise I wasn’t thinking of any of them when writing my story), but Tom and Huck are very similar to Cervantes’ two protagonists. There Tom is, the impractical romantic (Don Quixote), and there’s Huck, the no-nonsense, pragmatic sidekick that Tom needs in order to stay grounded (Sancho). Two pairs of opposites who rely on and complement each other.
Exactly like John and Crosley. John is the sensible, down-to-earth partner, and Crosley is goofy, full of wild ideas, and ready to fly off to Mars at a moment’s notice for a few pineapple cheesecakes. And just like those other characters, they appreciate and honor each other’s differences. They are a team that’s better than the sum of its parts. This, and their mutual adventures (and maybe a little insomnia) are the essence of their friendship.
And having no middle names doesn’t hurt.
We over here at the Night Buddies Amalgamated have some exciting news for you!
The third Night Buddies book, Night Buddies Go Sky High, is going to be released early next year! We will provide you with an exact release date soon, but for now we are officially revealing the cover.
As you can see, John and Crosley are going to be in for some out-of-this-world adventures! Each Program the Night Buddies go on only gets bigger and more exciting.
In this new book, when young John Degraffenreidt and his red crocodile buddy, Crosley, show up at the Pineapple Cheesecake Factory and find Big Foot Mae lying on the floor, staring up at her Great Star Puzzle on the ceiling, they expect something’s afoot. Not surprisingly, Crosley is craving a new supply of pineapple cheesecakes, but what Mae points to on her ceiling will start the Night Buddies on a totally new fantasy adventure.
This is one book you’re not going to want to miss out on!
Before the book is launched, I’d like to get your thoughts about the book cover in the comments below. For example, what does the cover say to you? Does it grab you?
If this is the first time that you’re hearing about the Night Buddies series, be sure to check out the first two titles, available on Amazon and B&N.com.
Stay tuned to this blog for more exciting news to come!!